State of the Galaxy: Fan protests, botched transfer highlight LA's troubling offseason
LOS ANGELES — When it rains, it pours. And right now, it seems like there is a black cloud comfortably hanging out above the LA Galaxy.
The most winning club in Major League Soccer history has had a rough offseason, considering the standards they believe they should be performing at.
Let’s start with Julian Araujo, who by all accounts was destined for a dream move to Barcelona on a reported $4 million transfer. It seemed like a huge step in the right direction, but of course, it was too good to be true. The deal ended up falling apart due to a “computer issue” that caused it to come 18 seconds after the deadline, therefore not allowing it to go through.
“I don’t know all the ins and outs of the process,” head coach Greg Vanney said. “I know the documentation has to be inputted into a computer system, and it has to be done by a certain time — and that’s done by the receiving team. My understanding was that there was some computer issue or error in the process, which then led to the final documentation being approximately 18 seconds late. That’s what I’m hearing.”
The Galaxy have yet to receive official documentation from FIFA, making this even more confusing.
“There’s parts of this discussion that still need to be dealt with. We don’t have full clarity on all of those things, so right now, we’re still in a bit of a wait-and-see, as [Julian] is as well,” Vanney added. “It has been a roller coaster for him.”
The 21-year-old defender has been open in the past about his hopes of making a move, and this was the perfect one. He would’ve kept building an already promising future, while the Galaxy would’ve shown their ability to be sellers in the international market benefitting money that would’ve helped fill some holes in a thin roster.
Instead, Araujo will have to somehow shift focus and prepare for another MLS season, until at least the summer, while the crushing thought of what could’ve been in Spain lingers in the back of his mind. That’s just one of the many things on a long list of what has gone wrong for the Galaxy over the past few months.
In December, MLS announced sanctions on the club for violating salary budget and roster guidelines during the 2019 acquisition of Cristian Pavon. Those sanctions included a $1 million fine and a $1 million loss of future general allocation money. The biggest punishment was a transfer ban that prohibits the Galaxy from signing any international players during the summer transfer window — an area where they excelled last season, with the acquisitions of Riqui Puig and Gaston Brugman.
Since then, general manager Dennis te Kloese departed the club, and the culprit who took the heat in that rule break was Galaxy president Chris Klein, whom fans have grown to disdain over the years. Whether it has been bad signings, lack of scouting or general negligence, the Galaxy have declined as an organization, while others around the league, especially the one just a few miles up the 110 freeway, seem to be flourishing.
Klein’s tenure has been rocky for a club with so much prestige in MLS. His contract expired at the end of 2022, but the LA Times reported in early January that he had been extended, putting an end to speculation about him perhaps not continuing following the fallout from the roster rule infraction.
The day following the extension news, five Galaxy supporters groups released a joint statement saying the leadership of those groups are boycotting games until change is made in the front office.
The fans have reached a breaking point and believe this is the only way they can effect any change. Either AEG, the Galaxy’s parent company, is truly naive to what’s happening, or it's turning a blind eye.
On Saturday, the Galaxy played their first preseason game that was open to the public, and it was in a largely empty Dignity Health Sports Park. The result of the game, a 2-1 loss to NYCFC, with Douglas Costa failing to convert the tying penalty in the closing moments, was irrelevant. The story of the night was a group of fans showing up outside the stadium to protest before the game.
The juxtaposition of people voicing their displeasure with the Galaxy in the shadows of the David Beckham and Landon Donovan statues in an area called Legends Plaza was a brutal reminder of the past glory days and the grim present.
Memories seem to be the only thing the Galaxy can cling to, and that’s just not acceptable for what’s supposed to be the premier team in MLS. Perhaps they never evolved as the league continued to rapidly change, but it doesn’t seem like they’re trying to, either. Rolling out the “first to five MLS Cups” argument does nothing when you look at what has happened lately.
The Galaxy have made the playoffs just twice in the past six seasons, eliminated by rival LAFC in both of those appearances just to make it sting a bit more.
The biggest cause for celebration Galaxy fans have had are two years of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which resulted in a lot of goals and fun headlines. That’s about it. He sold a lot of tickets, though, so mark it as a success in the eyes of AEG.
But with “Klein Out” comments clogging the Galaxy’s Twitter and Instagram posts, the noise of this boycott is only going to grow.
“I’m trying to get a team prepared for a season,” said Vanney, tasked with answering questions that have nothing to do with him. “We have high hopes for the group this season as we continue to build and move forward. And the guys need the fans’ support to try to be successful.”
Can you imagine Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez trotting out to a mostly empty stadium week after week? He’s one of the most outspoken players in MLS, and that wouldn’t sit well with him.
Now imagine if the team gets off to a bad start. But maybe if the star player says something, the Galaxy will be forced to act.
It’s a simple fix, really. If Klein cares about the club, he should step down. If AEG cares about the club, they should force him to step down.
Actions speak louder than words. And right now, those in important leadership positions aren’t showing much of either.